Wildlife & Biodiversity

DTE impact: Orissa High Court forms panel to study Olive Ridley conservation after 800 die

The 3-member panel to report by March 10 after consulting stakeholders

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Monday 01 March 2021

The Orissa High Court constituted a three-member committee on February 26, 2021 which will submit a report on the conservation of sea turtles in Garhimatha marine sanctuary.

The action followed a Feburary 4 report on Down to Earth saying 800 Olive Ridley turtles have died since January 2021 due to negligence of the state’s forest and fisheries department. The court took suo motu cognisance of the report on February 23 and registered a case.

The Garhimatha marine sanctuary in Kendrapara district is the world's largest rookey of sea turtles.

The panel comprises of Kartik Shankar, a sea turtle researcher of Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, Sushant Nanda, director, environment of the state forest administration, and advocate Mohit Agarwal. The team will visit Gahirmatha and Rushikulya beaches to investigate the turtle conservation work by forest, fisheries and other departments.   

The next hearing of the case is on March 15, 2021. 

They will consult fishermen, villagers and others involved in the conservation and protection of ecological diversity in the areas and verify compliance of the directions issued earlier by the state authorities and the court. The committee will submit a report to the high court on March 10, 2021, said Pravat Kumar Muduli, additional government advocate, Orissa High Court. 

The court order urged state authorities to cooperate with panel members during their visit.

The divisional forest officer of mangrove forest division (wildlife), meanwhile, filed an affidavit in the high court on February 26, according to court order.

The golden sands of the  Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 islands within the sanctuary serve as a thriving habitat for the Olive Ridley turtles that emerge from the sea at the dead of night to lay their eggs.

The reptiles, which trace their origins to the Jurassic age, travel across the sea to the world's largest congregation on the Odisha coast between November and May.

In 1997, the government declared Gahirmatha a marine sanctuary and banned all types of fishing for seven months, from November 1 to May 31 every year, to save the endangered species. 

The Odisha Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1982 prevents fishing trawlers within 20 kilometres of the coast within the sanctuary, but this rule is frequently violated. As a result, the turtles get stuck in the nets and die.

The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court on the protection of turtles had directed the state government in 2004 to protect the endangered sea turtles from the onslaught of fishing trawlers operating illegally along the Odisha coast.

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